Northeast USA Jampot Rally 2007
The 30th Anniversary
By Ben English
Father's Day weekend 2007 marked the 30th Annual Jampot Rally. The rally is inspired by AJS and Matchless motorcycles, but other vintage and British bikes are encouraged, and bikes and riders of all kinds are welcomed.
Since 1980, this Jampot (there are others around the world) has been held at Bucksteep Manor on Washington Mountain, near Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Bucksteep is a fine mix of fading elegance and deep funk, with accommodations ranging from Manor House to rough camping. The pool is out of commission and the bathhouse lacking, but the countryside is beautiful, the surrounding roads and leafy lanes are twisty and little trafficked, and they welcome us back every year, even as they host fancy weddings at the other end of the property.
The first and second Jampots were held at Perry Gerhart's home in Pennsylvania 30 years ago. Sadly, news of Perry's death came just a few weeks before this year's rally. Perry's memory was toasted and otherwise honored in several ways this weekend.
John Les wound up his two year term as Kahuna (rally organizer), and a proposal was up to replace the biannual turnover of new Kahunas with a permanent committee. In fact, a group of volunteers including John has been instrumental in keeping up a high standard of rally organization for several years now, feeding us better than we deserve, keeping us protected from rain and sun under an extensive array of canopies, and developing an excellent website. The meeting of past Kahunas voted to formalize this assignment of responsibilities, but nevertheless to appoint a new Kahuna so we can have someone to blame for bad weather, lost riders, indigestion, or whatever else comes to mind. We caught Frank Palmeri asleep, so we were able to pin the onus on him before he could get away. Next year Frank will have the honor of hearing all the complaints.
Rally goers included Bill and Karen Mauro, whose son Vincent first attended in utero 20 years ago, but who is now riding a Matchless himself. Other second generation rally goers were Keith and Patrick Hunt, sons of BSA loyalists Kevin & Debbie. We may have more multi-generation riders in the works, as first time attendees Pete and Ginny Casper brought Josie, 4, and Dylan, just one year old. There were S'mores around the campfire for the little ones, while a guitar was passed around for some well-sung songs performed by Keith Hunt, Alex Pauley and others. Thanks to Dave Haight for bringing the guitar and setting things in motion with his own fine picking and singing. Charlotte Palmeri was inspired and promises to bring up an electric keyboard next year. One more thing for Frank to pack in the trailer while Char rides up on her BMW K75! You can't beat homemade music, and the Jampot is the kind of place to really appreciate it. We also appreciate the Berkshire Brewing Co Steel Rail Pale Ale on tap. The sots among us started a second keg Friday night, and a third one was required early Saturday.
Several rides were scheduled for Saturday. On his bumblebee yellow and black 1973 Triumph, Chuck Wittig led a "modern" ride (speeds up to 60 mph). Chuck had done extensive preparation for a tour of the wind farm in Searsburg Vermont. Several years ago a Jampot ride had stopped at an overlook to observe this pioneering clean power installation, but this would have been an official tour by the operators. Unfortunately, not enough people committed in advance to guarantee the tour, so it had to be cancelled. It is hoped that we can find a way to make this work next year.
John Andrews used his G80CS to lead a dirt ride on the rougher roads and trails for the few and the brave up for the challenge. In contrast, the vintage "paved" ride includes just a little smoothly graded dirt, but mostly paved back roads where a 40 mph average is just fine. About 25 bikes and riders joined in, quite a parade- we'll need to appoint ride marshals to hold traffic at intersections if we get this many on one ride again! Jim Chivers led on his late 60s Triumph Bonneville. First stop was Chesterfield Gorge, a preserved site of natural beauty with historical significance. A docent was on hand to summarize the history and show us around. We had an hour to hike and hang out in a fine example of the bucolic New England landscape. A few dark clouds were seen but they passed uneventfully.
Jim then took us up to the Ashfield Lake House, a favorite Jampot destination, with its deck overlooking the lake, good food and nice selection of good beer on tap. Just a mile or so after leaving for the ride back, we saw a dark cloud ahead, and then it seemed we were immediately in a downpour, no chance to even think about pulling over for rainsuits. Well, I figured this satisfied a Jampot tradition and would wash the bugs off my leathers without being too much bother. Fair enough, just a few minutes after it was starting to become a bother, the rain stopped, the roads dried, and we were in the clear. But it wasn't very long before we hit a second and heavier downpour that pretty well soaked us through. That was completely unnecessary. My leather jacket didn't fully dry until it had a few hours in the sunshine Sunday morning.
Some beautiful bikes got all dirty from all that road spray. I have learned not to wash and polish my Commando before the Jampot- I leave that for the aftermath! Two bikes with well-earned patinas impervious to rain or dirt were Charley Taylor's 1948 Norton International and Jay Hawley's Indian Junior Scout bob job. Jay carries a piece of inner tube which wraps around the Indian's distributor to water proof it, but it was packed in his tool kit, so he starting running on one cylinder intermittently until he could stop and dry things out. Mark Turkington rode a BSA B44 cafe racer with all aluminum bodywork so highly polished that I think dirt and water just slide off leaving no mark. (Mark made the fenders, oil and fuel tank all himself, and he made them right.) His brother Paul sweetened the air with the aroma of two stroke oil smoke from a Bultaco Metralla Mk II. Rich Hosley had a lovely pair of Matchless twins, a G12 which he took out on the ride, and a G15CSR, resplendent in factory original rearsets and swept back pipes setting off the Norton 750 motor. That one stayed in the marquee, aka "Plumstead Palace", reserved for AMC machines. Bill and Vinny Mauro were on the Mauro family G3 and G80S respectively, and Bill Cawley rode his G80CS- I followed him at several points, enjoying the musical thump of his high level exhaust. John Harris rode a BMW airhead, and loaned his Moto-Guzzi 750 Breva to Peter Gay who came up from Florida for the event.
Another standout we've seen before was John Gurr's AJS model 31 650cc twin in sky blue with period quarter circle leather saddlebags neatly filling the quadrant defined by rear shock, muffler, and the arc of the rear fender. After riding down from Montreal, John stays close to camp and skipped any extra miles to save energy for the return journey. Chris Stewart, proprietor of Moto Montreal, dealing in Triumphs new and old, rode with John on a nice clean late 60s 500cc T100- his wife's bike, he says.
Several smaller groups took off on their own rides, shorter or longer, out to shop for hangover cures or bug spray or just to see the sights. I think I saw Howard Ziff, Larry Kaiden and some others on modern BMW tourers set out to see those windmills on their own. And of course plenty of folks just kicked back at the campground- some worked on a puzzle depicting a poster showing the full line up of Matchless machines when they were imported by the Indian Sales Corp, and marketed as "Indian Matchless", in the early 1950s.
Some of these homebodies included departing Kahuna John Les showing off his very pretty 79 Triumph T140 Special, incoming Kahuna Frank Palmeri with his freshly restored BSA B44 Victor, Marty and Annie Sabba (BSA A65), Greg Sudak (BMW R75/7), Randy Noble (Buell Thunderbolt, the old tube frame sport-tourer), John Rancitelli (Triumph Trident), Brian Carroll (Moto-Guzzi LeMans III), Peter Curtis (BMW GS series) and many others who space and faulty memory preclude mentioning, although I can't forget Peter Rocke. He came up Friday on his "new" bike, a 1999 made-in-India Enfield, but returned Saturday with his Guzzi CX100. Peter doesn't worry much about cosmetics- you could call that Guzzi a rat bike. Anything Peter rides is uniquely fascinating in its decorated decrepitude, if that is the right phrase. There was no dinner ride; instead Chuck Wittig's daughter Heather set up a pizza oven right on site and cooked up a nice selection of pies.
The only real mishap of the whole weekend befell Mike Taglieri Friday night just a few miles before his arrival. Picking his way through the dark on his Commando, he got into some gravel and fell down. It was a low speed getoff that bent or broke a few easily replaceable parts, and he was able to ride the few remaining miles to Bucksteep. But after an hour his shoulder became extremely painful, and he declined any more riding. Luckily, four wheeled rides home were found for both Mike and his bike on Sunday.
My own trip home pretty well met my criteria for an ideal ride: Passing a "Road Closed" sign without having to turn back, and finding a nice set of twisties and sweepers without any Buicks blocking the good lines. In fact, leaving Bucksteep I was on dirt for most of the first half of my route, over October Mountain Road down to Lenox and then over Reservoir Road to Richmond. There I left the back roads behind, streaking up Massachusetts Route 41 to US 20, upping the pace to narrow the "chicken strips" on my tires. A few more miles on Interstate 90 took me all the way home, so I could wash the bike, mow, the lawn, and mark my calendar for June 20-22, 2008, when we will rally once more for good bikes, good riding and good friends.